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Georgia Republicans Pass Sweeping Bill Restricting Voter Access; Trump Lies about Capitol Riot, Claiming Supporters were Hugging and Kissing Cops; Police Says, Motive Still Unknown for Boulder Rampage That Left Ten Dead. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2021 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Congratulations.

[13:00:01]

And for all of you, don't miss this unprecedented event with Dr. Gupta. The CNN special report, COVID War, the Pandemic Doctors Speak Out, it airs Sunday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

Thank you all so much for joining me. I'm Kate Bolduan. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

We are watching the big lie turn into voter suppression before our very eyes. Georgia's Republican governor has just signed a sweeping new law making it harder for people in his state to vote.

Georgia is not the first, though it is the first presidential battleground state to enforce these laws. There are bills in 45 other states that aim to suppress voting and more than 250 bills nationwide trying to restrict access to the polls to make it harder to vote.

Critics of Georgia's bill argue the controversial bill written and passed by Republicans disproportionately targets Democrats and black voters in what is now a critical battleground state after Georgia flipped to blue for the first time in nearly 30 years.

So here is what the law does. It limits the use of ballot drop boxes, it mandates that they are placed inside of early voting locations and that they're only open during voting hours. So maybe you work two jobs, you want to drop off your ballot at an odd hour, well, you can't. It imposes new voter I.D. requirements for absentee ballots and it even makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

This in a state where some voters have had to wait several hours to vote, specifically in the Atlanta metro area where an increase in voter registration has been fueled by younger and non-white voters. The new voting restrictions are igniting an outcry, they're igniting lawsuits and an arrest. Georgia Governor Kemp signed this controversial voting restriction behind closed doors at the state capitol last night, and Democratic lawmakers made themselves known outside the room.

Georgia State Representative Park Cannon knocked on the governor's door repeatedly calling for transparency and state troopers arrested her and took her away in handcuffs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While are you all arresting her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you arresting her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you arresting her? Can you cite the code? Why are you all arresting her?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Cannon is facing two felony charges as Republicans dismiss claims of voter suppression, and Governor Kemp defends the new law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): My commitment to the people of our state is simple. I will not back down. The truth is, ensuring the integrity of the ballot box isn't partisan. It's about protecting the very foundation of who we are as Georgians and Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: All right. I want to bring in CNN's Abby Phillip to talk about this. Abby, how do you think that these new laws are going to impact voter turnout and elections going forward?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think for starters, Brianna, we should recognize that this version of the bill that they passed and was signed into law is definitely watered down version of some of the more egregious things that they originally proposed, and it's only because of a lot of coverage and activism around the issue that some of the more egregious provisions were taken out.

But I still think that, as you pointed out, the issue of ballot boxes, which is a means by which people can cast their ballots when they're, you know -- when they're leaving work at after hours, maybe even on weekends, it is something that is going to hamper people who are typically working people, who maybe are poorer, who have jobs, maybe not even 9:00 to 5:00, where they're working either early in the mornings or later in the evenings and it's going to affect those people's ability to turn in their ballots easily.

And then you have activists saying that the I.D. requirements, although you don't have to physically send in a copy of your I.D. anymore, just the I.D. requirement in general for the absentee ballot is going to be a barrier to some people, particularly low-income and minority voters. So there's a lot in there.

I think also, you know, the misdemeanor charges for providing water to people who are waiting in lines, we know that people of color are much more likely to wait in longer lines to vote than white people, especially in states like Georgia. So that's something that is going to have a direct impact on what the experience of voting is like for a lot of people of color in that state.

KEILAR: I think after -- I think about after the insurrection, we saw some Republicans who were objecting or planning to object to some of the Electoral College results. They actually went back on what their plans were, Kelly Loeffler, for instance, who is the senator in Georgia. It now seems months later that the takeaway instead of rejecting the big lie is now to embrace it and to harness it and, this is the case with many, many Republicans.

PHILLIP: And they're harnessing it in part by kind of lying about what all of this is all about.

[13:05:04]

That instead of it being what it really is, which is an effort to kind of double down on the big lie, they're talking about increasing voters' confidence in the electoral system in broad and vague ways. The only reason that there is a lack of confidence in the electoral system is because of the lies that we're told for months about the security of the last election. The last election was secure. There were very few examples of fraud.

And so all of these changes in reaction to that, and in reaction to the distrust that exists among Republicans is part of that lie. This has become Republican orthodoxy, this perception that we just need to secure elections because that's a good thing to do. Well, the election was secure, and this is -- these are clearly efforts to put in solutions to something that wasn't even really a problem to begin with, and that all stems back to the big lie.

KEILAR: And that tells us what it's really about.

Abby, if you could stay with me, we have much more to talk about ahead. I do want to bring in now Elena Parent. She is a Democratic State Senator in Georgia.

And before we get to this new bill, Representative, let me first get your reaction to the rest of your Democratic colleague who's actually now facing two felony charges. She knocked on the door of the room where the governor was signing this bill in private and she did so repeatedly, despite troopers telling her not to, and they arrested her. What is your reaction to this?

SEN. ELENA PARENT (D-GA): Well, first of all, good afternoon, Brianna, and thank you for having me on.

Yes, we are all very distressed that Representative Park Cannon was arrested and is facing serious charges. She did knock on the door. But if you watch the video, there's nothing threatening about it. She is duly elected member of the general assembly and she was trying to make the point that, just as the drafting of the terrible legislation that was signed into law yesterday, was done in secret, the signing itself was done in secret, away from Georgia voters and total lack of transparency.

KEILAR: I wonder if you think this would have -- everything that's going on in Georgia would have gotten the attention that it's now getting if we didn't have what is an image that harkens back certainly to something in American history, that of an African-American being arrested and carted away by police officers. Do you think people would be paying as much attention if this hadn't happened to her?

PARENT: I think that you are right, it's a great point, Georgia's electorate is 30 percent African-American. Obviously, we are a deep south state that had many laws on the books during the Jim Crow era that were specifically making it possible to disenfranchise African- Americans. We have now come a long way from that. We have many black members of the general assembly.

But many of the concerns about SB202 do harken back to that era. SB202 makes it more difficult to vote, and we all understand that that is aimed at Democratic voters, and when black voters form the backbone of the Democratic Party in Georgia, you are attacking black voters. And then if you to have one of our black legislators be arrested as a result it just kind of puts a fine point on that truth.

KEILAR: There are three civil rights lawsuits that have been filed against this new set of voter laws in Georgia. You know, when we look at the federal level, the Supreme Court gutted protections in the Voting Rights Act, and since then has become an even more conservative court. That was a 5-4 majority. It's become even more -- it's become even more conservative. Are you -- do you have concerns that these cases might -- I mean, they might not prevail?

PARENT: Yes, absolutely. We know that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump made a priority to pack the courts with conservative, young judicial activists. That was really a main focus of his four-year of presidency. And so I think a lot of democrats who -- and let's say black voters in particular who used to look to the courts as sort of a haven of protection, have some questions about whether or not this same Trump-orchestrated -- Trump/McConnell-orchestrated federal judiciary will protect them in the same way.

And you are right, I mean, once the Voting Rights Act that Section 2 was disallowed, what you have is states like ours with this past history of discrimination that can come right in and change all the voting laws the way we are right now without a look from the Justice Department in D.C., which used to have to at least look at it and make sure that it didn't have an outsized impact on black voters, people that had been disenfranchised previously.

That is now no longer the case and they are free to go ahead and put things into law that do disenfranchise black voters. And now, it could be a lengthy court process to get some of that undone, which then, of course, as you pointed out, makes us more concerned about the makeup -- the current makeup of the federal judiciary.

KEILAR: This is -- I mean, obviously, when you look at what is being signed -- what has been signed into law, it will discourage some votes. It makes it harder to vote. Certainly it seems, you know, Republicans support it and Democrats are opposed to it, so it seems the expectation on both sides is that it will make it harder to vote in a way that will disadvantage Democrats.

Do you think that that --

PARENT: That's exactly right.

KEILAR: This is something that is angering a lot of people. Is this also going to motivate some Democratic voters?

PARENT: I believe it will be a huge motivator. And I made that point to my Republican colleagues on the Senate floor numerous times. We had 75,000 Georgians turn 18 between the November 3rd election and the January 6th runoff.

Yes, this does make it more difficult to vote. It has some onerous provisions. It has some provisions that are flat out mean, like you can't give people water or ponchos, when we know that in June, in the June 2020 primary we had lines up to eight hours in the heavily- populated urban counties, which are the ones where most Democratic Georgia voters live.

So, you know, we find the entire thing to be very concerning, but at the same time we know that Georgians are paying attention, they are watching. We know that the nation and indeed the world is watching, and that the motives of the Georgia GOP are totally transparent, you know, that it's meant to suppress these Democratic voters.

And that is exactly why I made the case to my Republican colleagues that people are watching. They know what you are up to and they are not going to have it. The motivations, you know, to get out and vote, and not let anyone or anything stand in people's way of exercising that right, that franchise, is going to be a huge focus of every Georgia voter, frankly. So i believe it will backfire on them completely.

KEILAR: Representative, thank you so much for coming on the program. We really appreciate it.

PARENT: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

KEILAR: Georgia's Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, whose election in January helped flip the state and the balance of power in the Senate for Democrats, is calling out the big lie and tying it to this new Georgia law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): It is that big lie that is the fuel for these terrible voter suppression laws that we see coming out of the state of Georgia and we've had to push hard against the big lie and make sure that we secure the democracy for all of our citizens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: This is the same big lie that led the violent mob of protesters to become rioters, to storm the United States Capitol, something else President Trump continues to twist and spin. Here he is on Fox last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): It was a zero threat, right from the start. It was zero threat. Look, they went in, they shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in and they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards. You know, they're -- they had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in and then they walked in and they walked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Zero threat, he said, waved in. I have eyeballs. Abby, you have eyeballs. Harry Litman, former U.S. Attorney, you have eyeballs, that is just not what we're seeing on the very pictures of what happened. I wonder what you make of these comments, Harry.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Look, you know, it's the more brazen, the more likely he is to embrace it. It is, I think, as Senator Warnock just said, it's the big lie. That is fueling -- well, it's the fake fuel, really, the real fuel of the voting rights statutes like Georgia, which I think is about to become an isolated state within the union, are the naked attempt to disenfranchise Democrats.

But I think Trump doesn't quite realize, and why should we be surprised, really, that he now lives in a world where there's legal exposure to lies and little by little the truth will out. So this statement for example, Brianna, he's facing 14 different lawsuits, civil and criminal, in every single one of them, whether he testifies or not, this statement is admissible against him.

[13:15:07]

And as will be anything else he has said in the context of it. So he really is now in a world where there -- where consequences could flow. But he is, as always, you know, under the guise of thinking, nope, everything's fine, I can say whatever I want, the more brazen, the better.

KEILAR: Yes, he hasn't changed, Abby. It seems like some things have changed after January 6th, understanding what words mean. What is your reaction to what the former president said?

PHILLIP: Well, it's just, I guess, not surprising. I mean, former President Trump has never been contrite or shown any remorse about what happened on January 6th and his role in it. And, in fact, he continues to double down on a regular basis, not just in this interview, but in statements that have come out of his office from down in Mar-a-Lago, that doubled down on the big lie.

This is also someone who is -- we should be clear with people, trying to explain away a violent deadly mob that maimed and brutalized police officers in the United States Capitol on January 6th in an attempt to stop the functioning of the United States government. That is an extraordinary and really egregious thing for a former president of the United States to say.

And even though it's not surprising, I don't think we should lose sight of what he is actually trying to explain away. It's not just walking into the buildings. There were people who lost their vision, who had heart attacks, who died as a result of what happened on that day.

KEILAR: Yes, we can't forget that.

Harry, I want to ask you about another legal issue, which is Dominion Voting Systems, which has filed a number of lawsuits, and it just -- they just filed a $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox. They alleged that the network engaged in reckless propagation of enormous falsehoods aimed to profit off the election lies.

I mean, we can look at how this was covered on Fox, and much of the programming -- most of the programming was giving voice to an easily verifiable, easily fact checked lie. What's at stake for Fox?

LITMAN: Pretty darn high. It's of a piece with what I was just saying, they believed for a few years they were cloaked somehow in Trump's ability as president to say whatever came into his mind and face no consequences. There are consequences in the law, and Dominion has also sued Trump lawyer Abby -- whatever her -- excuse me, and she said --

KEILAR: Sidney Powell?

LITMAN: Sidney Powell, thank you, thanks.

KEILAR: No relation to Abby Philip.

LITMAN: Right, exactly. She said, well, everyone would understand these weren't statements of fact. That, of course, is ludicrous.

So the law grinds slowly but it does come back to impose penalties. These were statements of fact that fox made at a time where I think they believed, as one with Sidney Powell and Trump, that you could say anything without consequences. It's not true, and it is a different world now, and this is a very serious suit against both Fox and Sidney Powell.

KEILAR: Yes. There is this frontier when it comes to disinformation, and we're going to see exactly where the line is on this here with some of these coming cases.

Harry, Abby, thank you so much to both of you.

Boulder officials are still searching for the motive in Monday's supermarket mass shooting as they consider bringing additional charges against the suspect. We'll have the latest in that investigation ahead.

Plus, a terrifying 24 hours in the south as a deadly tornado outbreak rips through Georgia and Alabama leaving a significant amount of damage in its wake.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:20:00]

KEILAR: Moments ago, the local prosecutor in Boulder, Colorado, said more attempted murder charges will be filed against the shooter suspect there.

The D.A. sharing more details about the intense faceoff that happened as police teams arrived on scene Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Immediately after responding, they charged into the store. Their actions saved others, other civilians from being killed. They charged into the store and immediately faced a very significant amount of gunfire from the shooter who at, first, they were unable to locate. And they put their lives at risk. And that will be reflected in additional attempted murder charges that will be filed by the District Attorney's Office in the next couple weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The suspect is already charged with ten counts of murder in the first degree and one charge of attempted murder of an officer who was shot at but not hurt.

The accused gunman made his first court appearance yesterday.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in Boulder. Lucy, the police chief also gave some details about the weapon that was used in this. What did she say?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She did. I mean, this is a massive investigation, 26 agencies involved, more than 167 staff members who have worked so far, more than 3,000 hours. We know that that gun that was used in the attack was purchased legally on March 16th.

Take a listen to what the police chief had to say about those details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER COLORADO POLICE: The firearm used by the suspect in King Soopers on March 22nd was a semiautomatic Ruger A.R.- 556 pistol.

[13:25:03] It was legally purchased in a gun store in Arvada, Colorado.

The defendant was also in possession of a 9 millimeter handgun, but at this time we do not believe that gun was used in this incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV: Now, that gun store was in the same Denver suburb where the suspect lived. We know that they are also investigating other weapons that may have been associated with the suspect. The D.A. said they don't know how many shots were fired but there were a lot of shots fired. They are not releasing that information yet. This is a massive supermarket so he said throughout this week and in the previous days they're literally going through shelf by shelf pulling off the products, looking at the walls to try to figure exactly how many bullets were used in the gunfire exchange.

Next week, they're going to be announcing the next court date for the suspect. So that's going to be an important to watch for.

The D.A. also talked about how the police entered and faced a significant amount of gunfire. We know that one Boulder Police officer exchanged fire with the suspect. He's been placed on administrative leave. That's standard operating procedure. They're still investigating that incident.

The D.A. also says that they expect to file additional charges of attempted murder in the first degree in the coming weeks. Right now, there's only one charge of attempted murder and that is surrounding an alleged attack, on Boulder Police Officer Richard Steidell, who was one of the first on the scene, he ran into that store, he was combing the store for any signs of the shooter when he found the body of fallen Officer Eric Talley. He then heard gunshots and thankfully he managed to escape with his life.

But in terms of motive, no sense right now why Boulder, why this supermarket, why Monday. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, Lucy, thank you for the latest there.

Let's talk about this now. Let's a talk more with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, he was Commissioner of Philadelphia Police and former Chief of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and we have CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin with us, she's a civil rights attorney.

Charles, the suspect passed a background check. What's your reaction to learning that?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, I'm not surprised that, you know, that took place, they're talking about him perhaps having mental illness, but, you know, our gun laws are so lax, and I don't believe he had a prior record that was on file so passing a background check. But that doesn't mean he should have been in possession of a firearm.

And that's why we really have to take a look at gun laws, the process that's used during purchasing, the waiting period, all those kinds of things before we start, you know, providing guns to individuals who perhaps may not need to have them.

KEILAR: Areva, this not having a motive, does that matter? I wonder, I think, you know, it seems like we will fixate on what the motive is because people who watch this happen, and they want to know how to stop it, they want to know why someone did it. But I wonder if it necessarily matters that much. How much does that matter in court?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Brianna, in terms of court, the reason motive comes into play is the whole concept of premeditation. How much planning went into this? You know, did he plan this for weeks? Did he plan this for days or was this some kind of spontaneous action? So that's why motive and getting to what happened leading up to the shooting is so important in terms of a criminal trial.

But I agree with you that we often go down these rabbit holes and typically the default is that the person had some kind of mental illness and that becomes, you know, a quick fix, a quick answer for why these mass shootings occur.

But what we know from psychologists and psychiatrists, and so many studies, is that, you know, having a mental illness does not make you predisposed to the kind of violent conduct that we see from shooters like this one involved in Colorado or the one we saw in Georgia. And that the explanation is often racism, sexism, hatred, prior violence in someone's past is a better indicator.

So I hope we don't go back down that rabbit hole, you know, mental illness, and we really look at, as Charles said, are relaxed and, in some ways, nonsensical gun laws in this country that made gun accessibility so incredibly possible for even criminals like this one.

KEILAR: Yes. I will say, the only thing remarkable about this gunman is the system that has allowed this to become actually very easy for someone to carry out. He's not remarkable.

Areva, thank you so much, Charles, I really appreciate you being with us as well.

States are ending their tiered vaccine rollouts, several giving the thumbs up to those 16 years of age or older, and that puts President Biden's new goal of 200 doses in 100 days well within reach.

[13:30:01]

But as quickly as the vaccine is spreading across the U.S., so are new variants of the coronavirus.